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Rich Milligan (Thatcham, Berkshire)

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
by Rodman Philbrick
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Coffins, 25 Aug. 2006
This review is from: Coffins (Mass Market Paperback)
"Coffins" is the first novel of Rodman Philbrick's that I have read although from doing a little research into him it would seem he is quite an prolific American author with many titles published including "Freak the Mighty" which was made into the well known film "The Mighty" starring Sharon Stone and Gillian Anderson. Going back to "Coffins" it's not the sort of book I would have bought myself; indeed I didn't as it was bought as a present from my mother-in-law, who as a non-English speaker is perhaps not in the best position to judge my literary tastes! But that said it's very nice to be able to report that this time she outdid herself and picked out an extremely entertaining book and I would have no hesitation in selecting another Philbrick novel in the future.

The story is set in the Northern American States just before the outbreak of the American Civil War. Dr Davis Bentwood is the Boston medical graduate who thanks to a generous legacy finds himself in the luxury of being able not to have to work but to instead study the teachings of the eminent American philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson. During his college days he has made firm friends with Jebediah Coffin, who although is a disfigured and disabled dwarf is a quick witted, intelligent and entertaining companion for the young Davis. Jebediah's father is the infamous sea faring captain Cassius "Cash" Coffin, a grizzled sea dog of much reputation but has recently showed signed of ever decreasing mental stability. When Jebediah's older twin brothers are killed in a sawmill accident Jebediah summons his friend to the family mansion in White Harbor to tend to his traumatised father.

Although the location of White Harbor is as pretty as a picture postcard there are sinister goings on happening in the Coffin family home. Strange and eerie sounds are heard during the night and both Jebediah and Davis are shocked to find the Coffin family mausoleum vandalised and defaced. But even worse than these malicious acts are the series of deadly and tragic events that start to befall the Coffin family. With Captain Coffin barricading himself into his private quarters and refusing to leave the outlook looks bleak for the Coffin brothers.

As I say, this isn't the sort of book I would normally buy or read. I'm not really one for historic fiction and the American Civil War period isn't a particularly favourite or fascinating period of history for me. But I found the way that Mr Philbrick brought up the subjects and personalities of the time, like abolition, suffrage, Abraham Lincoln and the black civil rights campaigner Frederick Douglass, to be most absorbing. Perhaps it way that he didn't bombard his writings with hundreds of dates and facts and figures but rather raised the happenings of the era as events with real effects on the characters in the book. It more than whetted my appetite to research some of the event and personalities on the Internet after I finished the book.

According to the foreword the book is based on several historical documents written by Davis Bentwood that have been discovered by Civil War historians. Certainly this flavour of being based on a true story gives the story an interesting edge and an added dimension to the story telling. Although the style of the writing is as per the era it isn't hard to read the book and the stylised phrases and figures of speech are well crafted keeping the book very readable and not a problem to get your teeth into. I found the writing to be very atmospheric also and the creepy malevolence that starts to stalk the Coffin family is quite chilling at times and really gets the imagination running riot.

Although the plot is a melodrama the book doesn't become a pantomime and for all its fantastic and otherworldly happenings it keeps a good sense of reality (probably the interspersing of the real life events helps), which makes the "horror" storyline even more unsettling.

The book is fairly short, my hardback copy (ISBN 0312872739) is only about 320 pages long and the dedicated reader will polish it off in a couple of longish train journeys. Amazon do not stock the book, the hardback or the paperback (ISBN 0812566513) and it is only available from their site via the second-hand sellers, meaning anyone wanting to check the book out might be able to pick up a bargain for under a pound!

P Is for Peril (Kinsey Millhone Mysteries (Paperback))
P Is for Peril (Kinsey Millhone Mysteries (Paperback))
by Sue Grafton
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars P Is for Peril, 1 Aug. 2006
I imagine that if you've reached "P is for Peril" then you should be fairly familiar with Sue Grafton's spunky and independent private investigator Kinsey Millhone. This episode in the Alphabet Series of crime murder mysteries sees our intrepid heroine take on the case of a missing doctor, Dowan Purcell who was least seen over 9 weeks ago when he left his offices at an old peoples' residential home. But the situation is complicated by the act it is not his current wife, ex-stripper Crystal who has hired Kinsey to pick up the very slow moving police investigation but rather his embittered first wife Fiona who is convinced that something is not all as it seems.

As ever, Kinsey leaps right in at the deep end and begins an active round of interviewing all those who saw Dr Purcell during his last few days. These include the staff at the residential home who reveal that perhaps all of Dr Purcell's financial accounting is quite above board and also the various members of Crystal's household which includes her unruly and disobedient teenage daughter, her male nanny and "very close" friend, Anica. There's also the question of the fitness instructor that rumour says Crystal has been seeing rather a lot of.

And just to make Kinsey's life just that little bit more interesting she finds herself on the look out for new office space and when an ideal office comes on the market at a very reasonable price she cannot believe her luck. Even better, one of the two brothers who are letting the space is the very attractive flame haired Tommy Hevener, who seems just as enamoured with Kinsey. Luckily for Kinsey long time landlord and the best looking 80 year old in the district, Henry will be looking out for her.

For fans of Kinsey then this is a solid and competent addition to the series. The two plots run nicely side by side and it prevents the reader from becoming too bogged down in the details of either keeping the actually story telling nice and fresh and bouncing along at a nice pace. There are lots of appearances of regular characters like Henry, Rosie, William and a nice cameo from Jonah Robb just to show there's no hard feelings between the two ex-lovers, which keeps a great sense of continuity and the familiar for the constant followers of Kinsey.

And now for the bits I didn't appreciate. Firstly this is the first book of the Alphabet Series where Ms Grafton has extended the length of the book considerably. My paperback copy is just over 500 pages long whereas previous book have been more around the 300-350 page length and I'm not convinced we get that much more value with the extra pages. The story about the financial goings on at the residential home can tend to become far too complicated and involved and if it wasn't for the light relief of the other storylines the book would become really bogged down on these points. Finally I always like the very straight forward way Sue Grafton tells her story, quiet often we even get a "wrap up" chapter at the end where Kinsey submits her final report. This time however the ending is left quite loose and there's one very big piece of insinuation which for the unimaginative readers might prove to be a bit of a disappointment.

Don't get me wrong, this is still excellent reading and it'll make your long plane journeys whiz by and it will no doubt make you reach for the next instalment in the series, but I didn't enjoy it as much as previous books and I'm not sure how often I will revisit this one.

The book should cost round about the £6.99 mark, but keep an eye out for those buy one get one free offers. The ISBN number is 0449003795.

Death on the Downs
Death on the Downs
by Simon Brett
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Death on the Downs, 28 July 2006
This review is from: Death on the Downs (Paperback)
My usual staple reading diet is a steady supply of intriguing thrillers or criminal detective stories but every now and then after reading about half a dozen of this "heavier" type of novel I feel myself in need of refreshment which I satisfy by reading something lighter and a lot less demanding and in this sense Simon Brett's novels are a perfect fit.

"Death on the Downs" is the second book in Mr Brett's latest series of mild comic murder mysteries "The Feathering Mysteries." The series concerns two ladies of a certain age namely retired home office civil servant Carole Seddon and 50-something free spirited hippy Jude.

When Carole's faithful Labrador, Gulliver, cuts his paw on a tin can whilst running on the beach, she decides to change her usual daily walk route now that she's not tied to just walking the dog. She goes to a local village that backs onto the Sussex Downs and whilst her walk begins a little muddy but still enjoyable that all changes when forced to take cover in a dilapidated barn she finds a macabre discovery in the form of a bag full of human bones.

The matter is soon in the hands of the local constabulary but Carole finds the attitude of Sergeant Baylis a little suspect, is he concerned with solving the case or more concerned with who is interested in the case? Jude shares Carole's unease and together the two intrepid amateur detectives decide to stick the noses in where they don't belong once more. Jude follows up a local spiritual healer with whom she has had past contact to see if he knows about the disappearance of a local girl and Carole pursues the various village locals she has seen in the pub after discovering the bones.

This book confirms the growing friendship between the two women and whilst they are still chalk and cheese in many of their opinions and views it is Carole who surprisingly finds herself behaving more like Jude with regards to formality and logic. She also begins to loosen up and relax slightly, especially when around, Ted Crisp, the landlord of the ladies' local pub. Jude seems to have gone through her own romantic experiences recently and from the little she reveals to Carole it doesn't seem as though they have been pleasant, so it is a much more subdued and quieter Jude than the first book in the series.

This is a really good confirmatory book in the series following on from "The Body on the Beach" and cements the two ladies as an entertaining and very readable detective couple. The range of characters is, as anyone familiar with Simon Brett's other works will know, a very amusing but also a very accurate look at the sort of people cropping up all over "little England" and Mr Brett's characterisation of these people and the way he weaves their "ordinariness" into an extraordinary story is excellent.

If you enjoyed the first book then this follow up is heartily recommended and will definitely whet your appetite for the next one in the series, "The Torso in the Town"

The books should cost round about the £5-£6 mark brand new. At just over 350 pages long and with its very light style, it shouldn't take the keen reader a great deal of time to rattle through it. The ISBN number is 0330376977.

Passenger to Frankfurt (Masterpiece Edition)
Passenger to Frankfurt (Masterpiece Edition)
by Agatha Christie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Passenger to Frankfurt, 9 July 2006
I've said it before and I'll probably say it again but I think you can generally separate out Agatha Christie's novels into two very broad categories. There's the more well-known comfy English murder whodunit with a cast of the retired major, the beautiful heiress and of course the butler. Then on the other hand she has also written several books that try to deal with the more challenging subject of international spy rings, global empires and evil masterminds trying to take over the world.

Probably like a lot of her fans, I tend to favour the first type of book feeling that this is what she does the best, whereas her more complex thrillers seem half baked, under-researched and sometimes terribly ridiculous. Alas "Passenger from Frankfurt" falls into the second category all too well and comes over as a real mixture of unplanned ideas and ludicrous possibilities.

Sir Stafford Nye is the foreign office diplomat who returning from duty abroad is approached by a mysterious woman at Frankfurt airport. As a matter of life and death she asks Sir Stafford if by using his passport and cloak she can try to disguise herself and board the plane instead of him. Sir Stafford, ever one for adventure, agrees and remarkably the lady manages to pass herself off as him.

Back in England Sir Stafford is intrigued by the strange happening and makes a plea in the personal column of the newspaper to have the stranger contact him. She does of course and through a series of cryptic clues and mysterious meetings Sir Stafford finds himself accompanying Mary Ann or the Countess Zerkowski as she is sometimes known, on a mission to discover the real goings on in a remote German castle.

Although what I've written hear makes the book sound quite exciting and fascinating I'm afraid it basically just isn't! As I say there's far too many unexplored ideas going on here that just aren't fleshed out or researched enough. It's the sort of plot that would more suit a complex thriller writer like Gerald Seymour and you just can't get away with this when you use the sort of 2-D cardboard cutout characters that Christie usually does. The book flits from continent to continent with no continuity at all, there are some quite pointless and absurd scenes to try to explain away the happenings (the one concerning the French Marshal is awful) and the isn't even enough of a personal story line between Stafford and Mary Ann to keep the readers' interest here.

This was one of Christie's final books and I don't know if this book is a symptom of this or not. She tries to explain it all away in the introduction where she says "It is not an impossible story - it is only a fantastic one" - Sorry Agatha fantastic, in any sense of the word, can't be used for this book.

The one glimmer of hope for the book is the character of Sir Stafford's great Aunt Matilda, who is a classic Christie creation, it's just a shame she wasn't given the right stage to perform her role!

One Hour Photo [DVD] [2002]
One Hour Photo [DVD] [2002]
Dvd ~ Connie Nielsen|Robin Williams
Price: £2.71

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Hour Photo, 25 Jun. 2006
This review is from: One Hour Photo [DVD] [2002] (DVD)
Well if you are a doubter of the acting talents of Robin Williams and feel that he all too often sells out to play soft comic clowning roles instead of something much more challenging then you really need to check this film out and see for once and all that the guy not only can put in an extremely effective performance but also come across as chilling and disturbing as any of the more regular actors we seeing playing this type of role.

This film worked brilliantly with two different factors I felt. First you have to give great credit to William's performance. As I say, for an actor whose comic capering can sometimes have you cringing as much as laughing and for someone whose roles are normally sugary sweet this is a very welcome break from the norm, and is a great stage to display what very fine acting talents the man has. His creepy, almost sickening portrayal of Sy is all the more effective because of the banal attitude of the character is so many other ways. The other mesmerising factor is the stark, almost clinical setting of the photo developing booth and the actual super market itself. Mostly decorated in bright clean white it presents the sort of environment where hundred of people exist but none of them actually live.

Support is ably supplied by Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan and especially young Dylan Smith as the Yorkin family. Gary Cole is good value as Sy's sneering boss and Eriq La Salle plays a good sympathetic cop, but really the whole film belongs to Robin Williams and deservedly so.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 8, 2009 12:19 PM GMT

Combat Academy [DVD]
Combat Academy [DVD]
Dvd ~ Keith Gordon
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.23

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Combat Academy, 25 Jun. 2006
This review is from: Combat Academy [DVD] (DVD)
Again this was a film that I bought to try to recapture some of my youth

(unsuccessfully I may add) as it was one that I watched several times as an

impressionable kid in the 80's.

To be perfectly frank the film is pretty terrible, it's badly written, badly

filmed, some of the acting is definitely suspect and it was far too far similar to

other films released about the same era. Mind you when the film has the same director as the more well known Police Academy series, then this probably isn't that surprising. That all said I do genuinely believe this film has a charm and even an innocence that many of the other 80's brat pack high school type movies failed to capture.

Max Mendelsson is the smart talking wise-guy who along with his geek side-kick Perry Barnett terrorises his high school and his town with a long series of

practical jokes and pranks. Finally exasperated by it all the High School principle suspends the two jokers only for the pair to then fall foul of the town's judicial system. Putting in place a new incentive to clear up juvenile wrongdoers the judge

has no hesitation in sending the pair to complete their year of school in the local

military academy, Kirkland Military School.

For the first time in his life Max is totally out of his depth in the strict and

rigid regime at Kirkland but that doesn't stop his embarking on yet a new series

of misdemeanours and mischief (where does he get all the farmyard animals from?). This is much to the dismay of top cadet Maj Biff Woods and his father the camp commandant Gen Woods. Shy and stuttering Perry has something else going on in his life as he has fallen head over heels for pretty cadet Mary Beth. So all we need to find out is whether the guys will survive their year of square bashing, drilling and inspections and who will win the war games against the squad of visiting Russian soldiers.

As you'd expect from the same director that brought us the Police Academy

series the film isn't too be taken too seriously. There are no surprises here with

the plot of course, Max becomes the hero whilst never totally circuming to military life and Perry gets the girl. Biff gets taught a lesson in humility and everyone

lives happily every after.

The film is full of familiar faces and indeed was made with a number of top US TV series stars of the time. Keith Gordon who plays Max may be familiar to viewers from the film adaptation of Stephen King's Christine whilst of course the most familiar face is that of a very young George Clooney as Biff. To be fair Keith Gordon does a pretty good job of carrying the film as the main character and he is perfectly watchable. There's a couple of howling performances besides him, but hey, were you really watching the film for the acting?

The bit I like best about the film is that it's brave enough to introduce a very untypical love interest story line in a genre of film full of beautiful people. Dana Hill (who watchers may remember from national Lampoon's European Vacation) is the unconventional looking love interest of Max and a sweeter and more innocent teenage first love would be hard to find.

May Contain Nuts
May Contain Nuts
by John O'Farrell
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars May Contain Nuts, 5 Jun. 2006
This review is from: May Contain Nuts (Hardcover)
It was only really because I'd so enjoyed John O'Farrell's non-fiction book "Things can only get better" that I'd persuaded myself to try a couple of his fiction offerings "The best a man can get" and this one "May Contain Nuts". Not believing myself to be a big fan of the multitude of "thirty-somethings relationship type books" which have dominated the book shelves of the local bookshops for the past few years I put off reading "May Contain Nuts" for some time as not only was it a "thirty-somethings relationship type book" but it was also written from the perspective of a woman and I really thought I might have to struggle through it all.

Alice is what John O'Farrell would have you believe is your typical middle class mother, over fretful and worried about her children, their safety and their educational successes. She's the sort of person who worries that there are too many cars on the road to let her children out of the 4x4 or who will go to any lengths to ensure that her children go to the right schools. She lives in a world with non of the traditional worries of money, jobs and illness and yet vexes her nights away "popping bubble wrap".

As the book progressed and Alice's character develops I was amazed to see how much I ended up actually liking Alice for all her weaknesses and faults and there was more than one point where I was rooting for her in every situation.

There is also a tendency to use what are almost "anti-stereotypes" in some of his characters and descriptions, for example Molly's friend Ruby's brother represents a terrible fear for Alice in that he is a tall well build black youth but yet of course he isn't a foul mouth street kid, he's quiet, polite and very respectful. The local council estate isn't a death trap of burnt out cars, drug dealers and stray dogs but rather a vibrant melting pot of the cultures of the proud residents. The headmistress of the public school isn't a caring, enthusiastic professional but a scheming, backstabbing racist. It is this over-egging of the pudding that is my only criticism as it does make the book read very awkwardly at times and it also makes the reader feel that John O'Farrell doesn't quite trust us to understand the points he's making.

I'll end with a compliment though and that was the final chapter of the book, when as the happy ending finally comes around, as we knew it always would, there is a really tender and touching section describing the family playing in their garden in the lawn sprinkler. For all it's clichés and pigeonholing of characters and opinions, John O'Farrell really hits the nail on the head here and rounds over a very enjoyable, very readable and at times extremely funny book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 8, 2012 9:11 PM GMT

The Hunted [DVD]
The Hunted [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tommy Lee Jones
Price: £3.93

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Hunted, 5 Jun. 2006
This review is from: The Hunted [DVD] (DVD)
I like Tommy Lee Jones, I always find his wholehearted grizzled performances quite refreshing amongst all the shiny Hollywood glamour we're sometimes served up without end, that said I don't think even his most ardent fans could call "Hunted" anything but more than average.

Jones plays L.T. Bonham a military forces contractor who trains Special Forces in areas of survival training, tracking and hunting. One of his students, Aaron Hallam, who apart from having excelled at everything Bonham has taught him, has now gone slightly off the rails having been subjected to horrific events whilst serving his country in the Balkans conflict. Hallam has taken to hunting down game hunters in the wild American forests and dispatching his victims with some very nifty knife work.

The FBI agents tracking Hallam down decide to recruit Bonham and put his hunting skills to good use by getting him to find and bring Hallam to justice.

The film is constructed in a extremely simple format, we have an introduction to the two main characters, the first hunt culminating in the first fight, Bonham catches Hallam, Hallam escapes again, Bonham must go after Hallam again and so on and so on. There's no subtly involved and no intrigue of a sub-plot running alongside the main feature although there is a little bit of mystery about whether Hallam is officially dead or not.

With all the action focusing on the two main leads, two strong and engaging performances are required and for me at least both Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro don't quite make it, Jones does a pretty good job but with such simple material he struggles, Del Toro on the other hand just doesn't have the stage presence required.

If you like an hour or two of mindless action where you can just switch off and watch the film without needing to engage your brain then this will probably do the job as good as any film, but if you're after just that little bit more then this does fail to deliver.

Sleepers [DVD] [1997]
Sleepers [DVD] [1997]
Dvd ~ Robert De Niro
Price: £3.14

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sleepers, 14 May 2006
This review is from: Sleepers [DVD] [1997] (DVD)
For its quite all-star cast I found it a little strange that I'd never heard of

this film since its release in 1996 and it was only on a television rerun that I

actually caught seeing it. The film is an excellent portrayal of young wasted lives

and eventual revenge but mixes this with questions of conscience and loyalty.

The story begins telling the tale of the lives of four young boys, John, Michael,

Tommy and "Shakes", living in the Hell's Kitchen area of New York. The

neighbourhood is a mix of immigrant families, usually Italian, and it is ruled by

the unspoken rules of how the immigrants all protect each other. The two sources of

authority are the church featuring the charismatic Father Bobby and the local mafia

boss King Benny. The four boys are solid friends and spend their days playing stick

ball, performing altar duties at the church and getting into usual youthful pranks.

Their lives are set to change forever when one such prank goes calamitously wrong

and results in serious injury to an innocent bystander.

The boys are sent to a reform school and this is where the nightmare starts. A

brutal and vicious guard named Sean Nokes runs a paedophilic ring of other

perverted guards and between them they subject the boys to horrific sexual abuse and

rape. Throughout their terrible ordeal the boys are determined never to let their

secret be reveal and they make a pact not to ever tell anyone one the eve of

Shakes's release

This then is the cue for the second half of the film that deals with the revenge

the boys meet out to Sean Nokes.

***Possible Spoilers***

On their release Tommy & John find it impossible to adjust to a crime free

lifestyle and set themselves up as the latest generation of gangsters in Hell's

Kitchen. When they stumble on Nokes in a local bar they ruthlessly cut him down in a

hail of gunfire. With such a blatant crime the boys are soon picked up by the

police and face trial on murder charges. Shakes who is now working as a journalist

is contacted by Michael who is now working for the DA's office. In what is a

seemingly traitorous move Michael informs Shakes that he intents to take Tommy &

John's case and basically be the lawyer for the prosecution of the two gangsters.

To say anymore would really give the game away but needless to say that Michael's

motives aren't without reason although whether King Benny will buy this reasoning

or whether Father Bobby will play his own part in the trial remains to be seen.

The film does really benefit from some of the big name performances. Robert De Niro

is simply superb as Father Bobby bring some steely integuity to his role although

ultimately this does go against what the Father eventually does. Dustin Hoffmann is

similarly excellent as the reforming alcoholic lawyer Danny Snyder, very nicely

underplayed with much subtlety. There's also a couple of minor roles where the

performances are well worth a mention, Bruno Kirby is great as Shakes' rather

abusive father and Vittotio Gassman's chips in with a fine turn as King Benny.

Minnie Driver is as gorgeous as ever and puts on an extremely authentic accent for

the part.

Probably the best performances though goes to the four young actors playing the

friends in their younger years. Showing acting skills far beyond their years these

youngsters take the viewer through a whole range of emotions and feelings; from

the warm of childhood friendships to the panic of when the prank goes horribly

wrong and ultimately to the despair of their abuse.

There's been a lot of discussion about whether the film was as factual as the

author, Lorenzo Carcaterra, claimed it to be. Whether or not the film was based on

a true story of whether this was a publicity seeking stunt shouldn't detract from

what still is a very very good piece of film making.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 8, 2009 12:22 PM GMT

The Best a Man Can Get
The Best a Man Can Get
by John O'Farrell
Edition: Paperback

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Best a Man Can Get, 14 May 2006
This review is from: The Best a Man Can Get (Paperback)
I've always been fairly wary of the influx of "thirty-somethings relationship" books that seem to have bombarded the shelves at the local bookstore over the past couple of years or so. I have dipped my toe into this style of novel a couple of times and whilst some of my experiences have been very enjoyable (Nick Hornby, Tony Parsons) there have been some real howlers along the way as well (Ben Elton, Jamie Holland)

Having just read John O'Farrell's first book "Things can only get better" which is a light hearted and humorous look at life as a Labour Party supporter and really enjoyed it I thought I would give one of his other non-fact books a try.

"The best a man can get" is the story of Michael Adams who is finding the modern pressures of fatherhood all a little bit too much. With two young children already when his wife Catherine announces she's pregnant again it looks like this might be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Michael works as a composer of TV advert jingles, which does allow him the luxury of working irregular work hours, a theme which Michael takes to the extreme as he begins to spend more and more time in his bedroom studio located on the other side of London. His flatmates don't know about Michael's family life and Michael enjoying a pseudo-bachelorhood for half his waking life doesn't see any point in putting them straight.

As expected things are going to get a lot worse for Michael especially when in one of the most blindingly obvious plot moves ever Catherine finds out about Michael's duplicity.

OK, let's get the bad things about the book over with first. If you're a bit of a fan of this style of novel, or like me have read just a couple of other examples, then I'm still sure some of the passages you'll read will seem awfully familiar from other works of this type. There are no inspirational flashes of brilliance or ultra perceptive insights here although at times the writing may seem like there is. There's some rather clumsy and obvious plot development and things fall far too easily into place to suit the story at times, and finally there's just a touch too much fantasy about certain elements. I don't mean the actual story so much as the specific details; I'm sorry but a part-time bit part actress and a jobbing advert composer don't just "go and rent a 4 bedroom house in Archway", I'm sorry they don't, have you checked out rental prices lately!

Also I did feel a bit conned by the blurb on the cover and what the actual story was about. The blurb would have you believe that Michael is really leading a double life of married father on one side of the Thames and playboy bachelor on the other, when really all he does is work in a house on the other side of the river, with his wife's full knowledge it must be said, where the other house inhabitants don't know he's married and tends to stay there for a bit of peace and quiet slightly longer than is strictly necessary.

And the good points? Well it's certainly a very readable book, I zipped through it in one sitting and I doubt that even the slowest reader would make a meal of this one. It would be ideal as a holiday book for the plane journey or beach. And although I've criticised it for not being that original the style of writing is light and enjoyable and at time very very funny. John O'Farrell certainly has a nice style of writing and he draws the reader into his world very well indeed. Unlike some of the other reviewers here I found the book's characters to be on the whole very likable and it was refreshing to see that on this part at least Mr O'Farrell hadn't taken the easy stereotype way out. Yes Michael was rather over-anxious and slightly too whimpish in the style that modern writers would have us believe all men are, but at least Catherine was feisty and interesting and not just another beautiful vacant wife.

It's a good book and as I say, very enjoyable, but don't go into reading it thinking it will change your life or that it has a hidden message amongst the pages.

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